Downtown workers watch as 7 GR riot defendants in court

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Seven of the 16 people facing charges in the May 30 riot in Grand Rapids appeared in court Wednesday morning via Zoom.

The hearing was supposed to include witness testimony, after which the judge would determine if there’s enough evidence to bind the cases over to circuit court for trial.

Employees of businesses victimized during the downtown riot were on hand to provide testimony, including the head of marketing and public relations for the company that owns Sundance Grill in the Waters building at Pearl Street and Ottawa Avenue.

The restaurant’s surveillance camera captured critical evidence: images of rioters breaking through windows and damaging the longtime eatery.

“(I’m) a little bit nervous to be able to go in front of individuals who destroyed our property,” said Chris Nicholas of Restaurant Partners, Inc, which owns Sundance and more than a dozen other area restaurants. “But it’s also a part of the justice system that these individuals have to pay for those things that they did.”

Ultimately, no testimony was presented Wednesday because the judge postponed the preliminary examination until Aug. 3.

However, a virtual hearing still took place with nearly 20 people — defense attorneys and their clients — attending via Zoom. The judge heard from defense attorneys who argued the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office should not try the case because the building that houses its offices was among those damaged in the riot.

“The building in which they reside every single day, the building in which they’ve had to view alleged damage done by individuals,” said Kellen Dotson, attorney for defendant Alexandria Lyons, 22, of Grand Rapids. “Your honor, there is an appearance of impropriety here.”

The defense wants a special prosecutor from an outside county appointed to try the case.

But 61st District Court Judge Nicholas Ayoub noted that prosecutors don’t own the building in which the offices are located.

“If the prosecutor’s (own) house were broken into, and he was the one bringing the charges and prosecuting the case … I could see that people would look at that and say, ‘Hmmm, that’s not right.. He’s personally involved. He’s also the victim.’ That would appear improper even if his intentions were absolutely pure,” Ayoub said. “But that is not the case. No one in the prosecutor’s office as far as I can tell owned any property that was damaged here. There’s no evidence to suggest that they were specifically the target of anything that was alleged to occur here.”

Ayoub said he would rule on the defense’s motion at a later date.

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